The concert was held at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC. This is a 3800 seat capacity sports-and-show coliseum and it was pretty well packed. As we walked into the place, I was struck by the age level of the vast majority of attendants. That is, it was an older crowd of solid baby-boomers (the children of the WWII generation; born from about 1946 to 1964). It's been a while since I've been to a concert and I usually think of them as being attended by people my age or younger (sometimes much younger, as when we saw Nickelback about ten years ago). Though it made sense that this would be an older crowd (James Taylor is 67), it was a bit of a shock to see it. It made me feel my age, though I'm in roughly the middle of the boomer age range. It seemed a lot of the attendees were at the older end.
So there was a lot of gray hair, beards, and pony tails among people who looked like grandparents but dressed hippyish (some did, anyway; nostalgia, I guess). At least one other person noticed the older nature of the crowd. In the men's room, I heard one extrovert say to the room something like: "Looks like the James Taylor crowd is older these days."
We found our seats on the ground floor section in front of the stage (though we were on the furtherest row back). These were the most expensive seats, and though they were relatively close to the stage, it was hard to see. Next time, I'll get seats in the elevated side areas. At least they had big screens hanging from the ceiling where video images of JT and the band were projected.
I did feel the energy of the place rising as we waited. These folks were long-time fans and they were anticipating the show. When the lights went down and Mr. Taylor came onto the stage, the communion between fans and performer flowed as it has for forty years. Mr. Taylor started with some mellow songs to ease everyone into things. Then he picked up the tempo, interspersing songs from his recent album with old favorites. Everyone got into it, including my wife and me. Smartphones were snapping pictures, people were raising their arms, swaying to the music, and singing along.
It didn't take long for me to see that Mr. Taylor hasn't lost it. I thought his distinctive voice was as good as it ever was, and he was backed up by cadre of excellent musicians and singers. He introduced them all over the course of the concert and noted that a number of them were recording artists themselves, and had recently come out with their own albums.
Throughout the evening (about 3 hours), Mr. Taylor used several different guitars to support the sets and demonstrated that he is, indeed, a talented musician. His band consisted of drums (tall, self-standing ones that the drummer played mostly with his hands rather than sticks), a couple of guitars, keyboards, and 4 vocalists. The sound they produced was awesome, filling the arena but without overpowering it. The sound level complemented Mr. Taylor's generally mellow compositions very well. I couldn't tell if there were any electronic enhancements, but there didn't seem to be.
Halfway through the show, just before the intermission, Mr. Taylor brought a choir on-stage that he said was from Charleston. He introduced them as the "Lowcountry Voices" and "Together, they dedicated Taylor’s 'Shed a Little Light' to the memory of the victims of the Charleston shooting and their families." The crowd stood for the performance and offered a huge applause afterwards in sympathy for the victims of the senseless tragedy. The arena released a video of this performance on YouTube and you can find it here. It will give you a feel for the ambiance of the concert, though the sound quality is far inferior to actually being there.
In the concert's second half, Mr. Taylor and his band nailed it with big-time deliveries of the first half's promise. He led off with a get-down, rock-and-blues rendition of "Steamroller" that was punctuated with heavy guitar and keyboard solos. Former flower children swayed, sang, and raised their hands as they caught the band's energy. I even thought I might catch some whiffs of drifting doobie smoke, but I didn't notice any. I guess security was tight.
Then there were extended versions of "Mexico" and "How Sweet It Is" that the crowd really grooved to. Overall, it was a great concert, expertly performed by a music legend who was obviously enjoying himself.
My takeaway for the evening was that "boomers can still rock, and their performers can still perform." You keep doing what you do, until you can't. That may not be very Buddhist, or an answer for the sadness of impermanence, but it can help keep us going with the implied prompt to just, "keep going."
I hope James Taylor keeps going. Maybe I can too.